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Statistician, Musician and Card Collector Makes Order Out of Chaos

By Colleen Chandler

Joe Haseman, senior statistician at NIEHS, says he enjoys making order out of chaos.

That could explain his huge collection of more than 10,000 baseball cards. Old cards, that is. He started collecting them as a kid, not knowing that they would be valuable some day. It was always the statistics on them that interested him most.

In fact, the young Haseman created his own version of video game entertainment: He would compare two randomly selected cards, and the one with the best stats for its featured player scored a run for his team. Haseman said he made up many such games. His collection includes complete sets from 1954, 1955 and 1956, and partial sets from 1953 and 1957. His most valuable card, he says, is the rookie card of Pittsburgh Pirates Hall of Famer Roberto Clemente.

Joe Haseman and his tuba — not a melody instrument, which is okay by him

But his all-time favorite is his childhood hero, St. Louis Cardinal Stan Musial. Haseman said his grandfather took him to Cardinals games when he was a kid. His other favorite cards, such as the Mickey Mantles, were well worn in childhood. The ones still in mint condition are ones that didn't mean much to him as a kid.

At NIEHS, Haseman puts his numerical problem-solving talent to good use, supporting scientific work by attaching meaning to raw data. Of the approximately 500 reports issued by the National Toxicology Program, he is listed as a contributor on about 300 of them. His is a backstage, supporting role he contentedly plays that may explain his other favorite hobby: playing the tuba.

The tuba is not a melody instrument, and that's just fine with him. He has no desire to play a solo or be in the spotlight. "I've always considered myself to be a team player "What I do as a statistician is just as important to the institute as my tuba playing is to the orchestra," Haseman said.

He played the tuba as a kid in school, continuing through high school and college. But because the instrument was so expensive, he never owned one, borrowing an instrument from the schools instead. When he finished school without an instrument, he quit playing. For 27 years, anyway. Then, his church choir director put together a musical production and Haseman was recruited once again.

After reading a classified ad with a bargain price of $1,200 for a used tuba, he was back in business. That was 10 years ago, and he still plays for the church and occasionally at NIEHS and the day care center.

With 30 years of federal service under his belt, Haseman is eligible to retire, but says he won't as long as he is still having fun. However, when he does retire, he says he intends "to get serious" about his baseball card collection, attending more shows and improving the quality of the collection.

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